Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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Issue 5
Stories
Beauty's Folly
by Eugie Foster
Under Janey's Garden
by Margit Elland Schmitt
Rumspringa
by Jason Sanford
The Polka Man
by William John Watkins
Original Audrey
by Tammy Brown
From the Ender Saga
The Gold Bug
by Orson Scott Card
Tales for the Young and Unafraid
Toon Out
by David Lubar
Braces
by David Lubar
InterGalactic Medicine Show Interviews
Essays by Orson Scott Card
Who Is Snape?
by Orson Scott Card

Under Janey's Garden
    by Margit Elland Schmitt

Under Janey's Garden
Artwork by Nick Greenwood

This was Janey's garden. Peas and beans climbing over the back fence, corn standing in a crooked row right next to lacy-topped carrots. Pumpkins sprawling in a tangle with the squashes in the corner, bragging up their yellow-gold blooms. Cucumbers, pretending to be all innocent while they hid under the pumpkins' prickly leaves and thought about taking over the unsuspecting herbs in the patch next over. Marigolds bright and gold, buddied up with the tomatoes.

Janey's garden, and ten-year-old Janey sat in it with her eyes squinched nearly shut while the sun baked down on her old, straw hat, and the ice cubes clinked and melted in the glass of lemonade at her side. She was waiting for Mom to finish her phone call.

Janey's back itched where the sweat was trickling down between her shoulder blades. It wasn't as if it'd be less hot for her scratching, but she did it anyway in an absent-minded way. Her dusty fingers, dirt ground into black crescents under each nail, would leave a smudge across the back of her t-shirt. She didn't care. She was watching the back corner, the spot near the biggest pumpkin, and yeah, something moved.

"Rabbit's back again," she said.

Mom was busy. She was watering the roses up against the back porch. Those roses weren't properly part of the garden, but they were pretty, blooming big and soft and yellow up against the wood. Mom thought she was watering the roses, but she was really talking on the cell phone, so most of the water from the hose was runneling off in another direction. If the clients and distributors didn't get their acts together soon, there wasn't going to be anything left on that side of the house but one drowned and sorry-looking apple tree.

"Mom," said Janey, and waved a hand to try and catch her eye. That didn't work. It used to work, before Mom's job went nuts and cut half the people working there, before Dad left, and before Mom had to do twice as much work as before, most of it on the phone. Not that she wasn't good at it. She was. She was a killer, Dad said. She was a wiz on the phone. "Mom," said Janey. "Mom. Mother. The rabbit's come back."

"What's that honey?" said Mom, but at least she turned, so the water could chase off after the artichokes for a while.

"I said --"

"Oh, the rabbit," said Mom. "Don't let him get into the gourds again. You remember last year we . . ." But then the distributor or the client came back on line, so it was just as well Janey did remember reaching for the big orange pumpkins last fall and pulling up one half-eaten shell after another. Mom had more important things to talk about.

Rabbit -- he was a problem they couldn't talk away. They didn't have a dog to chase him, and fat old Tombow was strictly a windowsill cat. Mom had talked about setting traps, but Janey had been creeped out by the idea of picking up dead rabbits and so the traps had never got set and were still sitting in their boxes gathering dust under the kitchen sink. It was Janey's garden anyway, so she got up, scratched at the sweat-prickles in her hair underneath the floppy hat, and walked on over to the back corner, wishing there was such a thing as a scarecrow for rabbits.

Only up close, Rabbit looked too big to be scared by anything made of straw and old socks. He looked too big to be a real rabbit, in fact, when she got right up next to him. He thumped his big hind leg on the ground, then reared up and looked at her. He came almost up to Janey's shoulder, and that wasn't even counting the ears. She didn't remember him being this big the last time she'd seen him, but that had been a year ago, and from the back door besides. How big did rabbits get anyway?

This particularly big rabbit didn't run away. He didn't seem timid. He didn't seem scared. He was brown-furred, and brown-eyed, and his nose and whiskers twitched busily, and Janey really wished she hadn't walked quite so close after all. He wasn't doing anything much, this rabbit. Not yet, but no matter how weird it felt to be staring eye-to-eye with a big rodent, Janey didn't run away, even though the rabbit had these teeth. Bigger than they ought to be, and slightly crooked, but she didn't run. It felt like that would be overreacting, somehow. She didn't want to look like an idiot being chased out of her own garden by a stupid rabbit. Sure he was big, but he was just a rabbit!

Then he started talking. "Janey," said Rabbit. "You're even prettier than I thought."

"Um," said Janey. Don't talk to strangers, was the general rule, but she had to wonder, under the circumstances, if there was some kind of dividing line where the strangeness got so huge you had no choice but to talk. "Thanks, I guess."

"Bigger, too," he went on. "But that's no problem. I like tall girls. Might be a problem fitting the wedding dress, but we can work something out. And the house -- but you'll get used to ducking."

And before she could even ask what that was supposed to mean, Rabbit thumped his big back leg. This close, she could feel the ground shake. Then he grabbed her. His paws were just paws, but when they got hold of Janey's wrist, she couldn't pull away, no matter how hard she tried. And she did try, because Rabbit was dragging her, hopping along the fence line. He moved fast, too fast for her to keep up by running, and it hurt every time she bounced down against the dirt and the rocks and once even up against the stakes she used to tie up the tomatoes, but she still couldn't get away. She lost her hat. She lost a shoe. Those hairy paws were hard as rock, and the claws were sharp, and even if he held her tight enough to bruise, that was nothing compared to when Rabbit tried to dash down the hole he'd dug under the fence, one that looked too small for either of them to fit through, and Janey bashed her head against the side.

That hurt. Even if she didn't exactly see stars, it made her wish she could. Stars would be a relief about now. They'd make everything look more like a friendly little cartoon, and a lot less like the middle of a monster movie: Killer Rabbits from Outer Space. Except, this rabbit didn't live in outer space. He lived under Janey's garden.

When they reached the bottom of the burrow, Rabbit let go, and Janey finally had a chance to look around. It was not quite what she expected, but after a moment, she realized that was because when she'd originally thought about a rabbit at all, she'd figured it must be of the hole in the ground variety. And the minute she'd been kidnapped by a rabbit, she'd been thinking cartoons and storybooks. She'd expected to end up in some airy little bungalow with chintz curtains and a bubbling teapot. Someplace with a rug by the cheery fireplace, and cakes and jelly, and only a vague hint that there was anything like dirt or digging involved in the construction.

This place, Rabbit's burrow, looked as if he'd read exactly the same stories as Janey, only he hadn't got the point. The hole was big. Big enough for Rabbit and herself, though she had to hunch down a little to keep from snagging her hair on the tree roots that made up most of the ceiling. There wasn't a teapot and there wasn't a rug. There was a table, sure enough, in the middle, a three-legged sawhorse with a tatty, red beach-towel thrown across it to suggest a tablecloth. Instead of cheerful little pictures of Rabbit's bunny family on the walls, he had stuck up a row of human skulls -- four of them, one after the other. There were some hunks of pumpkin rind and guts muddying up the ground near the sawhorse, and Janey guessed those were supposed to stand in for the cakes.

There was a wedding dress, too, just as Rabbit had said. It was white. Really white, as if it had been made out of the petals of the sweet pea blossoms from her garden. As if it wasn't hanging from a rabbit skull in the bottom of a rabbit hole. And it was lacy. It even had a veil. There was a bed, too. "Our marriage bed," said Rabbit proudly. He'd got that right, too. It had a frame, a mattress, blankets and a pillow. Even a dust ruffle. It was cute. It was clean. Janey was absolutely sure she never, ever wanted to lie down on that bed.

She could see all this perfectly well, because there actually was a window: a hole about as big around as her head, high up on the wall, almost level with the ceiling. When Janey looked out, she saw a neat patch of mowed lawn, an apple tree, and a faded lawn chair. All that, and a fat tomcat dozing on the windowsill. She realized all at once they were underneath her own front yard.

"You're crying," said Rabbit. He seemed surprised. No, she realized, he seemed delighted. She was sure there was a sort of sniggering upturn to that weird bunny-mouth. "All brides cry on their wedding day."

It was such a ridiculous thing to say, it made her mad. "I'm not crying," Janey said. It didn't count as crying if you weren't actually snuffling. If you didn't blow your nose. If you didn't admit it, it wasn't happening. Anybody would get a tear in their eye if they got dragged across the yard and had their head nearly bashed in by a giant rabbit who was really kind of a jerk. "And I'm not getting married. I want to go home."

"You live here now," Rabbit said. "You're going to be my wife."

"I'm ten."

"That's a respectable age. I'm only six myself."

"I mean that ten-year-olds don't get married," Janey said. Right, she thought. Logic is always the best way to get out of marriage to rabbits. I can't believe I'm actually saying this out loud. "They just don't."

"They will today," Rabbit said. "See, I've been thinking. You've got that lovely garden. It's full of all sorts of nice things. A fellow my size likes regular meals, and soon as we're married, everything in that garden will belong to me, too!" And he bounced around the room on his big, hind legs. The room turned out not to be big enough for them both after all, she realized when she got shoved hard into the wall once, and then again. She had to dodge fast to keep her feet out from under his heavy paws. "I'm just going to hop over to fetch the minister and the wedding guests. You can start cooking up the feast."

"I can do what?" Janey looked over at the sawhorse and the dripping yuck near it. "That's a pumpkin." A squishy, drippy, pile of pumpkin bits, really. Although to a rabbit, maybe that was a feast.

"You grew it," said Rabbit. He paused in his heedless bounding to stop and his foot stamped on the floor. Hard. "Don't you know what to do with it next?"

"Well, I do," she said, and the idea came to her without even having to think about it. "I can make pumpkin pie, but not without a spoon to mix the dough with."

"I'll bring you a spoon," Rabbit said. "But no tricks now. If I catch you trying to escape from me, I'll bite off your thumb." Janey saw the way his huge, yellowish, teeth glimmered under his whiskers and felt scared enough to be sick. "I'll bring a spoon for your dough, but you'll have to wait here while I fetch it. Janey my bride, you can't go outside." And he stamped his foot until a fine layer of dust sifted down and covered everything, even the wedding dress, with a layer of brown gloom.

"All right," said Janey, picking a bug his stomp had shaken from the ceiling out of her hair, but she was only pretending to be cool and brave by this time. "Whatever."

Rabbit wasted no time in bounding out of the room and scrabbling up the hole to the top again. Janey made herself count to twenty before she tried to follow him. Long enough, she hoped, that by the time she climbed to the top of the hole herself, he'd have bounced out of sight and wouldn't catch her again, but not so long that he'd already be on the way back with an armload of whatever. Except that when she tried to climb out of the hole, her hands couldn't find anyplace to grip. She could see roots and rocks well enough, and they should have been fine, but every time she reached for one, her fingers slipped right off again. As if what looked solid and stable was really slick and covered with some kind of oil. Same thing when she tried to use her feet. The rabbit run looked like it would be easy enough to climb, until she actually tried to climb it. Then it was impossible.

She tried the window next. Sure, it was high up and looked only as big as her head, but there was no way Janey wanted to be down in this hole when the Rabbit came back. It wasn't like there was any glass to break. All she had to do was enlarge the hole, but when she tried, she had the same trouble as before. She couldn't get a grip on anything more substantial than sand, and no matter how much of that she knocked down on herself, there always seemed to be plenty more.

So, she tried waving. She didn't remember seeing Rabbit's hole in the yard before, but if she could see her house now, it seemed reasonable to think Mom could see her, too. Janey waved. She yelled. She stuck her arm out the window and flapped it around until it ached. But Mom was still on the cell phone. Still drowning the artichokes. She didn't see. Even Tombow slipped down off his windowsill after just one, slow glance.

Then Rabbit came back. Janey heard him coming down the run and hurried away from the window. When he bounded in, so hard and fast he knocked over the sawhorse and its towel tablecloth, she was standing there trying to look at the bits of old pumpkin rind as if she couldn't wait to put them in a pie shell. He'd missed her by inches, but he carried a trowel which he dumped onto the floor just underneath the window.

"There you are," he said with that cheerful, unpleasant smile. "Straight from your own garden. Now you'd better start cooking. The wedding guests are already starting to arrive, and they're hungry. I invited the squirrels. They pelted my last bride with nuts. And the crows, who will peck at you. The shrew from down the lane, she'll bite, if you hold still too long, and Badger will perform the ceremony. Don't ask him too many questions. Badger the minister, get it?" And he laughed.

"Yeah, except I still don't want to get married," Janey said. "So there's not going to be a ceremony."

"Don't be stubborn," said Rabbit. "Just stir up your dough and bake your pie."

"But I can't!" she protested, and suddenly he was much closer than he had been, so close she could feel his breath on her arm and the way the muscles all shook and jumped nervously under his skin. She felt nervous herself.

"What do you mean you can't?" he asked. "Didn't I say no tricks? You asked for a spoon. I brought you a spoon. If you can't make our wedding feast, why did you say you could?" And he wriggled his whiskers at her, and nibbled the air with his oversized teeth.

"Oh, I can stir up the dough with this great, really great, spoon," Janey said. She said it fast, and was relieved when that too-big head backed away a little. "But I can't bake a pie without a dish to put it in. Can you get me some kind of a dish?"

The head retreated still further, and Rabbit nodded. It turned out to be a pretty creepy gesture on something that wasn't built for it. "All right," he said. "Nobody can say I'm not fair. And you are going to be my wife. I should be nice to you now and then. I'll get your dish, but no tricks now. If I catch you trying to escape from me, I'll bite your hand off." Those big teeth swooped near again, and never mind how hot it was out in the sun, down in the hole, Janey shivered.

"I won't," she said, and the whiskers stopped tickling her wrist.

"That's what I like to hear," said Rabbit. "You get your dough ready, and I'll be back shortly with the dish. Then we'll join the others and hold the ceremony. I'm thinking traditional vows. But you'll have to wait here. Janey my bride, you can't go outside," and with a stomp of his hind leg loud as thunder, he left again.

Janey only counted to ten this time, before she grabbed the trowel and tried to use it to help her climb up and out of the hole. It didn't work. Just as her hands had done, the rusty little would-be spoon sank into the softness and came right out again. She might as well have been trying to climb a mountain made of flour.

When Rabbit came back, he came in a rushing bound, and a hail of gravel kicked loose from the scree at the mouth of the rabbit hole. His big feet seemed even bigger and they hit the ground even louder. "I've brought your dish," he said. And he had. It was one of the saucers Janey stuck under the potted plants out back of the garden to catch the overflowing water, and it wasn't very clean. Not that Janey cared, since her pumpkin pie dough was nothing more than the old pumpkin guts she'd found on Rabbit's floor, mixed with mud. She didn't plan to stick around long enough to eat it.

"Finish your pie," said Rabbit. He leapt onto the sawhorse and it fell over. He leapt onto the bed, and it creaked. "Finish it. The guests are waiting. The owls are wanting to eat the mice, but that's bad luck before the ceremony. Besides, I think the mice are planning to climb into your ears. I've almost got their promise. They'll climb in, and if you forget to say 'I do' when Badger asks, they can each bite off one of your ears to help you remember. Is the pie done?"

"There's one thing --" she started, but Rabbit knocked her down while she was still scraping the pumpkin-mud into the saucer. Knocked her down and held her down with both paws pressed hard to hold her there.

"No more things," he said. He didn't shout it. He said it very softly, and Janey couldn't breathe for fear. "I've given you enough things. I've waited enough. I'm ready to get married."

Janey wasn't ready. Not by a long shot. She imagined she could hear Mom calling. She pretended. And she thought of something. Something that might help. "Just one more," she said. "I should have thought of it before. But I can't bake a pie if I don't have an oven."

"I'm not bringing you an oven," said Rabbit.

"Well, a fire of some kind," Janey said. "Or even wood. I could bake the pie if I had enough wood. I could light my own fire. I could do it then."

Rabbit watched her. His dark eyes were glassy-bright and wary. She wondered what he was looking for, what he saw. "No tricks," he finally said. "If I catch you trying to escape from me, I'll bite your whole arm off."

"I won't," said Janey.

"I mean it," he said. "I could just start gnawing. It's not a very big arm. I could have it off in no time at all."

"I know you could," she said.

"I could."

"I know."

"Well," and with a sudden burst of cheer, Rabbit was up and Janey could breathe again, could get back onto her feet. He shook the skulls out of the wall with his bouncing. He knocked the bed on its side. "Well, I'd better get going. Can't keep the guests waiting forever. They all know how nervous brides get, don't they? They all know. They've all had their own marital woes now and again. I'll just get your wood, and watch you bake the pie. I've never seen a pie bake before. This should be fun! How I wish you could come with me. I'd bounce your pretty head against a rock. Such fun. But Janey, my bride, you can't go outside."

He left then, and Janey didn't wait at all. She attacked the walls with the trowel, she dug at the rabbit's run with the dish. Neither worked. The walls were too solid for her trowel to do more than scrape, and the run was too soft for the dust to even stay on the dish.

"That's the dumbest looking game I ever saw," said a voice from behind her.

Janey whirled around in a panic and only stopped herself from throwing the trowel at his head when she recognized the shape in Rabbit's window. "Tombow!"

It was Tombow indeed. Her own cat, and she was relieved to see he looked exactly the same size and shape he always had been. He had simply relocated himself from one windowsill to another. Now, he twitched his tail at her. "Trust me. I'm a cat. We think chasing wadded up balls of paper is high art. What you're doing with that shovel-thingy. That's stupid."

"I'm trying to get outside," Janey said. Given freaky Mister Rabbit, she was willing to accept that Tombow had decided to start talking today.

"You can't do that," the cat said.

"I know, I keep slipping!" she said. "I thought the shovel would, you know, give me more traction." It had seemed a sensible idea at the time. It really had. Explaining things to a cat with that expression on its face was bound to make anybody feel like a complete idiot.

"Yes, but what I mean, Janey, is that you can't do it because you're under a spell. You're not able to leave this charming little dwelling. You can't set hand or foot outside. That Rabbit who caught you is a pretty good wizard, for his kind."

"A wizard," said Janey.

"Yes."

"A rabbit wizard?"

"Yes."

"I want to go home."

"So noted," said Tombow. "I can help you, if you want."

She wasn't in the mood for riddles, and Rabbit was going to be back any minute. If she wanted? Talk about stupidity. She was more than ready, if only the trowel could have made a dent on the walls or the floor. Now Tombow said he could help her. "How?" she asked. "Can you break the spell he's cast on me?"

"No," the cat said. "He's got your comings and goings tied up in knots only a Rabbit can undo. But it happens I'm also a pretty good wizard, for one of my kind." From the sound of it, the standards he held himself up to were a bit higher than anything he expected a mere bunny to achieve. "When your husband-to-be comes back --"

"Don't call him that," said Janey.

"Well, what is one to think? He's already sent out the invitations." Tombow winked, much too self-satisfied for comfort. Janey tried to glare a burning hole right through that smirk, and was glad when her cat stopped with the jokes. "When Rabbit comes back, you make your fire."

"What happens then? I haven't got any matches," she said.

"My dear, I believe I already mentioned I'm a wizard. I'll light the fire for you. Trust me. Rabbit will panic. Just don't let him put it out. The more it burns, the more frightened he'll become. You can make him break the spell when that happens."

"Okay," she said doubtfully. "But wouldn't it just be easier if you went around the house and got Mom? I mean, you can talk now. You can tell her what's wrong."

Tombow yawned. Janey took it as a negative. "She never listens to me, either," he said. And that was that until Rabbit came back.

He came more slowly this time, but that was because he was bigger than ever. Almost too big to fit down his own hole, and giggling with pride. "Look at this," he said as he lay armloads of kindling at her feet. "Look what I can carry. Look how strong I am. Here is your wood. Here, and here." It all clattered down at her feet, and Janey hurried to pick it up again and stack it up in a way that looked the most flammable before Rabbit got angry and knocked her down again. She hadn't ever built a fire before, but then she didn't really have to get this one going either.

She picked up the saucer of muddy pumpkin-yuck and stole a glance at Tombow in the window. "For Rabbit dire," he said. "Smoke and fire!" The wood blazed up so quickly, Janey had to jump backwards to keep from being singed. She bumped right into Rabbit, but he was lunging after the cat in the window and didn't seem to notice.

The fire frightened him. Tombow had been right. Rabbit was in a panic, trying to run away. Trying, in rabbit-fashion, to get underground to safety, but there was nowhere to go. They were already both under the ground already. He circled the room, his big, heavy paws shaking the earth with each leap, and circled it again. Janey ran, too, to try and stay out of the way, but couldn't. Rabbit was too big, and too clumsy. He knocked her down and when she got up again and tried to move, she couldn't see for smoke and barked her shin against the broken sawhorse. She finally let herself stay down, at the base of the run. She reached out and caught the red towel from under the sawhorse and covered her mouth and nose with it.

The towel helped, but smoke was everywhere. It rushed towards the window. It rushed towards the rising slope of the run as if they were both chimneys, and Rabbit didn't dare try to use either as an exit. There was so much smoke, it made the fire seem even more terrible, more bright and awful than it could possibly have been. Janey didn't believe the fire was big enough to kill them, but Rabbit did.

"Make it stop!" he said. "Make it go away."

"I can't stop it," she said. "I'm baking the pie you wanted."

"I don't want the pie anymore," he said. "I want to get out of here. That fire, it will burn me up!"

"I can't help you," Janey told him. He knocked her down harder than before, and shook her, rocking her back and forth between his hard, heavy paws.

"You have to," he said. "You're my wife. You have to help me escape!"

"I can't," she said. "You've made it so I can't. It's your spell. Take it off."

Rabbit stared. His eyes were wide and round, the whites showing clearly as he looked this way and that. "The fire!" he said. "It's going to burn me up!"

He had a point. The fire was spreading. It was already well on the way to devouring the wood he'd brought, and had jumped to where the bed was lying on its side and had started in on the blankets there. At this rate, the wedding dress, and the stupid lacy veil, would be next. Janey liked the idea, but really hoped she wasn't there to see it.

"Let me go," she said. "Take off the spell."

"All right," said Rabbit. "All right." He stamped his foot, hard enough that she felt it break through the hard-packed ground so it cracked and split apart beneath her. "Janey my bride, you're free. Go outside."

So she ran. That's all, a mad, scrambling dash. She could feel whiskers and hot breath on the foot that was bare. Kicked back hard and lost her other shoe. Rabbit. Rabbit was coming, but so was Mom. Janey ran up the smoky tunnel and out into the open air. The ground was firm under her hands and feet. She did more crawling than running, but she got out. She was out, where the sun was bright and hot, and the wind blew the smoke to nothing.

And where, Janey saw, the wedding guests were gathered. Just as Rabbit had said.

They knew her at once. Probably there weren't a whole lot of girls desperately climbing out of rabbit holes in the neighborhood. They growled at her. Like Rabbit, they seemed larger than was natural. Unlike Rabbit, they didn't have much to say. There was just fur, and teeth, and wings. A screeching, screaming, skittering, clawing rush towards her. Janey screamed.

She tried to run. Something caught her t-shirt in its claws, and as she jerked away, something else snagged her jeans. Just a rip, she told herself. Kids do worse to themselves all the time falling off their bikes. Keep running, don't look back. If you can just get to Mom, you'll be okay. Never mind how she knew that, she knew. The problem was the wedding guests seemed to know it, too. She turned one way, and Badger was there. He didn't look like a minister, he looked like he could literally tear her to pieces. She turned another way, and the birds dove and clawed at her eyes, pulled her hair.

"You left me," growled Rabbit. "You tricked me."

She turned again, and Rabbit was there. In the hot, bright sunlight, standing just outside his hole, he wasn't a nightmare ready to fade away. He was angry. He was betrayed. He looked scarier than ever. If he'd looked this horrible in the beginning, Janey would never have got within ten feet of him. He was huge. His fur stood out in quivering, muddy bunches. His eyes were wild and gummy and red from smoke. He wasn't even pretending to smile anymore, and his teeth. His teeth. "Now Janey," he said. He lifted his big, back foot to stamp. "The wedding. Our wedding. I'm going to marry you, Janey. And then I'm going to bite you. The guests are here. Now. Janey my bride --"

And there wasn't time. There was just the wedding, and Rabbit's guests. Only, if it was a wedding, a real wedding, Janey realized, shouldn't she have guests of her own? Where was Mom? Why wasn't there anybody on her side? And she realized it was because they couldn't come if they weren't asked. But now she knew. The guests were here. She knew who could help.

Janey invited the garden.

The roses caught Rabbit in their thorns. The tomatoes picked up stakes and threw them. The pumpkins bowled into Badger and wrapped him a tangle of prickly vines until he couldn't move without strangling himself. Beans and peas shot up like green bullets aimed at the owl and diving crows. The corn rustled and swayed, driving the squirrels away with blow after blow from silk-topped ears. And the cucumbers, unleashed at last, rose up and gleefully overpowered the mice and the shrew, bludgeoning them to death one after the other. The garden was holding the guests at bay, but it couldn't quite hold Rabbit.

"I'm going to bite your leg off," he said. He was moving now. Moving slowly, because it was more horrible. He wanted to scare her. He was scaring her. She could hear his heavy body straining against thorns and breaking branches as they tried to hold him. The garden fought, leaves and roots and everything straining to keep him back as long as they could. Just a few seconds more. A vine snapped under the weight of those paws. Rabbit lunged.

But Mom got there first.

Mom stepped forward with her cell phone still glued to her ear, and suddenly Rabbit didn't seem anything near as big as before. She stepped down hard and crushed Rabbit's head, grinding his skull beneath her heel with a sick, wet crunch while Janey shut her eyes. When Janey dared look again, Rabbit was unmistakably dead, and Mom was turning towards the house without a backwards glance, without missing one word of her conversation with the client or distributor on the other end of the line. Janey nodded to herself. It was just like Dad always said: Mom was a killer. Mom was a wizard on the phone.

Mom went up on the porch and closed the screen door behind her. On his comfortable windowsill, Tombow gave the world a sleepy wink. And Janey shared a long, long glance with the marigolds, nodding in the breeze. Then she went off through the rest of the garden to see if she could find her old, straw hat.


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